Memorandum from Peter Jones
FCO CLAIMS REGARDING IRAQ'S WEAPONS OF MASS
1. I listened with interest to the interview
you gave this evening on Radio Four's The World Tonight
programme, and am pleased to learn that the select committee you
chair proposes to take up the question of the extent to which
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provided accurate and complete
evidence to Parliament. I understand from the interview that the
remit of your enquiry will include the content of the "Downing
Street Dossier" issued in September 2002 and wondered whether
you would find the enclosed letter a useful resource.
2. The enclosed open letter to the Prime
Minister was circulated to MPs, media sources and others in the
early stages of the recent war in Iraq. It compares the claims
made in the dossier with the latest available analysis from UN
Weapons Inspectors, and refers to a number of useful UN sources.
The conclusions are that the most reliable evidence available
indicates that Iraq had no substantial, deployable WMD programmes;
almost all of the foul chemical and biological weapons that had
been amassed were verifiably put beyond use, and some disposal
sites remained too dangerous to investigate. This accounting was
achieved despite the fact that bombing on numerous occasions damaged
Iraqi facilities where relevant documents and personnel were located.
In the peaceful US, by contrast, Undersecretary of Defense Dov
Zakheim reported in 2002 that his Department still could not properly
account for at least $1.1 trillion from the fiscal year 2000,
and that the assistant inspector general of the Department wouldn't
even touch the unsupported money expenditures for fiscal 2001
because "material amounts" still couldn't be accounted
for properly in the year.
3. You may also wish to note the Prime Minister's
letter dated 22 May 2003 to Lynne Jones MP regarding the fabricated
evidence supplied to UN Inspectors that suggested Iraq had attempted
to procure uranium from Niger. Mr Blair referred to a 31 March
written answer from Mike O'Brien stating, "the documents
referred to by Dr El Baradei were not supplied by the UK".
This is followed by unsupported repetition of the assertions that
Iraq sought to obtain uranium, and that there were links between
the Saddam Hussein regime and Al Qaida.
4. No doubt the Government will argue or
imply in response that there was additional intelligence that
supported the view that Iraq was a threat to us, and in breach
of its obligations under various UN resolutions (most recently
UNSCR 1441), and that this could not be disclosed in the dossier.
Although this is no justification for using demonstrably false
information in the dossier, it should be remembered that 1441
also placed obligations on all nations to pass relevant information
to the UNMOVIC inspectors. The inspectors followed up many leads
provided by intelligence sources and were reported to be frustrated
by the fact that these always resulted in wild goose chases. If
the Government possessed information of sufficient reliability
and importance to justify an otherwise illegal attack on a foreign
power, surely this should have been passed to UNMOVIC; and surely
it should have led UNMOVIC to evidence of a functioning weapons
5. This longstanding requirement makes the
UN weapons inspection documents the key source against which to
measure the accuracy and completeness of FCO information. If the
dossier is anything to go by then against this standard FCO information
fares very poorly.
3 June 2003
What is the Justification for War in Iraq?
With the commencement of war in Iraq, there
is a building consensus amongst politicians and the media that
the debate is now over, the votes have been cast, and it is time
to get behind British and American troops deployed in the Gulf.
However, there are still many people who are interested in understanding
the reasons why force has now been employed with the inevitable
suffering that this means for the people of Iraq. I therefore
write to seek an explanation from you about the reasoning behind
and justification for the attack on Iraq. However, I should like
to present my own summary of the position in the form of an open
letter, and would be grateful if you could take into account the
following remarks in considering your response. I am also circulating
it to friends and media sources to seek their views.
For many months now we have heard a case put
forward for war with Iraq. Saddam Hussein's regime is said to
possess dangerous weaponry, which might be passed on to a terrorist
group, and used by terrorists upon the civilian population of
the UK or our allies. It is widely recognised that fundamentalist
al-Qaida is not a natural ally of the fiercely secular Ba'athists,
and that Iraq no more "harbours" al-Qaida than do Germany,
the US and UK, but I will leave this issue to one side. The mere
possibility of a connection is taken to constitute a "direct"
threat to us, and one that must be brought to an end, either through
the Iraqi leadership demonstrating that it has no proscribed weapons,
or by militarily enforced disarmament.
The intelligence evidence that Iraq has weapons
of mass destruction was summarised in September 2002 in the dossier
"Iraq's Weapons Of Mass DestructionThe Assessment
Of The British Government". The document sets out the case
for your Government's belief that Iraq has chemical, biological
or nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and missile systems to
deliver them, a message that has before and since been constantly
repeated. Iraq's response has been to repeat its claim that all
proscribed weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War and to deny
that it has attempted to create weapons of mass destruction since
that time. To gain an understanding of which of these views is
more likely to be true, it is helpful to compare the claims of
the dossier with the recent findings from the UNMOVIC weapons
inspectors, in particular the reports to the UN Security Council
on 7 March 2003, and the UNMOVIC Draft Work Plan of 17 March 2003.
Each of the areas of concern can be addressed independently, and
from this analysis, an assessment of the risk Iraq poses can be
Missile systems: President Bush has already
dismissed the issue of missiles as "irrelevant" to the
decision to go to war with Iraq, and they appear not to be the
weapons you fear will fall into the hands of terrorists, so I
will not spend many words on them. The controversial demand that
Iraq destroy al-Samoud II missiles which, by the calculations
of weapons inspectors may be capable of exceeding the 150km limit
by a small distance (provided their guidance systems are not fitted)
has already resulted in a number of these missiles being put out
of action. Dr. Blix as concluded that at most 16 scud missiles
are unaccounted for out of 819 (UNMOVIC Draft Work Plan, 17 March
2003, p 26). The positioning of our troop in well-publicised sites
near Iraq's borders indicates that there were few fears about
long-range missile attacks. Monitoring and inspection of missiles
would surely be an adequate means of policing this "irrelevant"
Nuclear weapons Onefissile material:
The argument that there is a nuclear threat from Iraq appears
in paragraphs 20-23 of the Dossier. It is stated that, whilst
Iraq's nuclear programme was dismantled after the first Gulf War,
"Iraq retains expertise and design data relating to nuclear
weapons." However, Iraq lacks the materials to produce fissile
material itself, and is prevented from obtaining it by the sanctions
regime. The dossier points to evidence that Iraq is trying to
obtain the materials it would need to restart a nuclear weapons
programme, which would no doubt provide ample evidence of hostile
intent. The section concludes that: "If (sanctions) were
removed or prove ineffective, it would take Iraq at least five
years to produce sufficient fissile material for a weapon indigenously."
The dossier's authors then judge that if Iraq obtained fissile
material and other essential components from foreign sources the
timeline for production of a nuclear weapon would be shortened
and Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon in between one and two
Much of the urgency of the threat therefore
depends on whether Iraq is indeed attempting to obtain the materials
it would need to make a nuclear weapon. The dossier states that:
"there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of
significant quantities of uranium from Africa", a disturbing
claim. It is disturbing principally because this "intelligence"
source was providing faked information. Director of the lnternational
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr ElBaradei, made the following
rarely mentioned observation in his report to the UN Security
Council on 7 March 2003:
"With regard to Uranium Acquisition,
the IAEA has made progress in its investigation into reports that
Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger in recent years. The investigation
was centred on documents provided by a number of States that pointed
to an agreement between Niger and Iraq for the sale of uranium
The IAEA has discussed these reports with the
Governments of Iraq and Niger, both of which have denied that
any such activity took place. For its part, Iraq has provided
the IAEA with a comprehensive explanation of its relations with
Niger, and has described a visit by an Iraqi official to a number
of African countries, including Niger, in February 1999, which
Iraq thought might have given rise to the reports. The IAEA was
also able to review correspondence coming from various bodies
of the Government of Niger, and to compare the form, format, contents
and signatures of that correspondence with those of the alleged
Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded,
with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documentswhich
formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions
between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic. We have therefore
concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded."
The seriousness of this deception is considerable,
and it is therefore crucial that there is an investigation of
how this evidence came to be put into circulation. Please could
you advise me whether the UK was one of the states that provided
fabricated information to the UN inspectors; and if so, what steps
have been taken to discover who fabricated it, and what disciplinary
proceedings are being taken against staff who through negligence
or deception may have helped (mis)lead this country into war?
Your Government's dossier notes that, "Iraq's
known holdings of processed uranium are under IAEA supervision."
In fact the UN Security Council disarmament panel chairman, Ambassador
Amorim, reported (S/1999/356) to the Security Council on 27 March
"In February 1994, the IAEA completed the
removal from Iraq of all weapon-usable nuclear material essentially
research reactor fuel. On the basis of its findings, the Agency
is able to state that there is no indication that Iraq possesses
nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear
material or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities
or hardware) for the production of such material."
The security situation in the Middle East would
be greatly improved if this kind of IAEA supervision were extended
to other nuclear powers there, such as Israel, whose nuclear programme
is an open secret. Yet because uncritical US support has helped
make Israel a "special case", above international law,
their highly developed nuclear programme is allowed to continue
without any form of inspection.
Nuclear weapons Twoother materials:
The IAEA and UNMOVIC inspectors have also made interesting discoveries
regarding other evidence that has been cited against Iraq. This
evidence principally concerns "dual use" technologies
such as high tolerance aluminium tubes and permanent magnets that
might be of use in building a centrifuge to enrich uranium for
use in a nuclear warhead. Of course, given that Iraq was not in
fact seeking to obtain fissile materials, there is less reason
to believe that the "dual use" technologies were ever
destined for a nuclear programme, but the inspectors were able
to set minds at rest still further.
Aluminium tubes: In his most recent report
to the Security Council, Dr ElBaradei sets out the position regarding
Iraq's attempts to procure large quantities of high-strength aluminium
tubes very clearly:
"As previously reported. Iraq has maintained
that these aluminium tubes were sought for rocket production.
Extensive field investigation and document analysis have failed
to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these 81mm tubes
for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets.
The Iraqi decision-making process with regard to the design of
these rockets was well documented. Iraq has provided copies of
design documents, procurement records, minutes of committee meetings
and supporting data and samples. A thorough analysis of this information,
together with information gathered from interviews with Iraqi
personnel, has allowed the IAEA to develop a coherent picture
of attempted purchases and intended usage of the 81mm aluminium
tubes, as well as the rationale behind the changes in the tolerances."
He adds that:
"Based on available evidence, the IAEA team
has concluded that Iraq's efforts to import these aluminium tubes
were not likely to have been related to the manufacture of centrifuges
and, moreover, that it was highly unlikely that Iraq could have
achieved the considerable re-design needed to use them in a revived
centrifuge programme. However, this issue will continue to be
scrutinized and investigated."
So Iraq had permitted uses for the tubes they
tried, unsuccessfully, to import, and would not have been able
to adapt them for use in a centrifuge programme. Again, there
is no evidence that justifies military action.
Magnets: Iraq has attempted to import,
and gain the capability to produce, high strength permanent magnets,
which could be of use in a centrifugal uranium enrichment programme.
We have seen already, though, that there is no evidence Iraq possesses
or has tried to obtain either the uranium or high-strength tubes
that such a programme would require. But did Iraq have a legitimate
use for magnets? Dr ElBaradei thinks so:
"(S)ince 1998, Iraq has purchased high-strength
magnets for various uses. Iraq has declared inventories of magnets
of 12 different designs. The IAEA has verified that previously
acquired magnets have been used for missile guidance systems,
industrial machinery, electricity meters and field telephones.
Through visits to research and production sites, reviews of engineering
drawings and analyses of sample magnets, IAEA experts familiar
with the use of such magnets in centrifuge enrichment have verified
that none of the magnets that Iraq has declared could be used
directly for a centrifuge magnetic bearing."
Given these other uses, and the difficulty of
importing materials under the sanctions regime, Iraq would have
a good reason to want to develop a domestic capacity to produce
enrichment centrifuge magnets. The IAEA centrifuge experts concluded
that "replacement of foreign procurement with domestic magnet
production seems reasonable from an economic point of view."
In any case, although Iraq signed a contract for a magnet production
plant to be installed in 2003, "The delivery has not yet
occurred, and Iraqi documentation and interviews of Iraqi personnel
indicate that this contract will not be executed."
Since there is no evidence of even a far-distant
nuclear threat from Iraq, or that Iraq has taken steps to reinstate
any kind of nuclear weapons programme, one of the most compelling
reasons for war must be dismissed.
Residue of chemical and biological weapons:
The dossier also asserts that there is a residue of chemical and
biological weapons in Iraq's possession from stocks held before
the Gulf War. The missiles and other systems Iraq' s possession
would be capable of delivering such weapons (up to 150km). In
the dossier, the Joint Intelligence Committee concluded that,
"These chemical and biological capabilities represented the
most immediate threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction."
The Iraqis are thought to have continued chemical
and biological weapons research and development since the Gulf
War, and the dossier emphasises that, "Saddam continues to
attach great importance to the possession of weapons of mass destruction
and ballistic missiles which he regards as being the basis for
Iraq's regional power. He is determined to retain these capabilities".
Therefore, the Iraqi claim that all remaining stocks of weapons
and precursor agents were unilaterally destroyed after the Gulf
War are rejected:
"No convincing proof of any kind has been
produced to support this claim. In particular, Iraq could not
explain large discrepancies between the amount of growth media
(nutrients required for the specialised growth of (biological)
agent) it procured before 1991 and the amounts of agent it admits
to having manufactured."
The Amorim report was rather more positive in
its assessment of the position in 1999:
"UNSCOM and IAEA have been effective in
uncovering and destroying many elements of Iraq's proscribed weapons
programmes in accordance with the mandate provided by the Security
Council . . . UNSCOM has achieved considerable progress in establishing
material balances of Iraq's proscribed weapons. Although important
elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed
weapons programmes has been eliminated."
The figures usually used to substantiate that
Iraq has chemical and biological weapons are derived from the
1999 Amorim report, mentioned above. However, on the day that
weapons inspectors were again pulled out of Iraq to allow bombing
to begin, Dr Blix provided the Security Council with a fresh assessment
of its stocks In both documents, the method by which the figures
are arrived at is simple: first, the inspectors look at the consignments
of noxious chemicals we, the US and others exported to Iraq for
use against Iran, and Iraq's estimates of the quantity of weapons
it was able to produce with them; then the volume that Iraq has
accounted for to the inspectors' satisfaction is subtracted; and
the result is Saddam's arsenalor in the Amorim's more sober
terms, "discrepancies" that require investigation.
Of course, it is recognised by the inspectors
that, since many of the numbers used in the calculations are estimates,
there must always be an element of uncertainty about the fate
of the last remnants of the Iraqi arsenal. However, the weapons
inspectors have attempted to quantify the residual weapons issues:
1. "550 artillery shells filled with
mustard declared to have been lost shortly after the Gulf War
. . ." (Paragraph 21, Amorim report) this out of "70,000
projectiles filled with chemical agents, principally Mustard"
(UNMOVIC Draft Work Plan 17 March 2003, p 45) that Iraq has declared
and verifiably explained. Iraq says that the appearance of a remainder
is due to the figures given in the "Currently Accurate, Full
And Complete Declaration" (CAFCD) being approximations. New
accounting given was to be reviewed by UNMOVIC as part of its
new work plan.
2. "Five hundred R-400 bombs,"
(Paragraph 21, Amorim report). The R-400 bombs are capable of
being adapted with greater or lesser efficiency to deliver a range
of biological or chemical agents. In the Draft Work Plan, the
number of remaining R-400 bombs not accounted for is given as
"300 to 350", but it notes that the circumstances of
the destruction of some weapons makes estimates difficult. Some
R-400 bombs are said to have been destroyed by coalition bombing,
along with the inventory of these weapons. Others were "either
unilaterally destroyed in 1991 by burning and explosion or destroyed
under UNSCOM supervision" but the numbers were hard to establish
due to "hazardous conditions created by the method of destruction."
The Al Azzizziyah firing range was declared as the destruction
area for all of the filled biological R-400 bombs and was excavated
under the supervision of UNSCOM in 1997. However, inspectors deemed
the risk from unexploded weapons to be too great to permit a full
inspection of the site. Under pressure, Iraq has undertaken further
re-excavation. As of 3 March 2003, "Iraq had recovered eight
complete bombs, 94 base plates and over 250 bomb fragments from
a number of excavation sites at the range." Surely the right
way to proceed under these circumstances would have been to continue
efforts to establish how many of the outstanding balance of R-400
bombs could be accounted for at Al Azzizziyah?
3. Iraq acquired around 30,000 aerial bombs
that could be filled with chemical agents between 1983-90. The
number of these used up during the Iran-Iraq war is large, but
disputed; an lraqi Air Ministry report on which the lnspectors
place reliance is said by Iraq not to have included data on "consumption
of CW filled munitions positioned at three airbases. . . (which)
had been occupied in 1991 and the records destroyed." During
its time in Iraq, UNSCOM supervised the destruction of "more
than 2,000 filled and some 10,000 empty bombs" but "was
not able to fully verify Iraq's declared unilateral destruction
of some 2,000 empty bombs and some 450 mustard bombs destroyed
as declared by Iraq in a fire accident." There is probably
insufficient evidence ever finally to establish the fate of the
few remaining filled and usable weapons, but the work plan concludes
that "Iraq's inventory of aerial chemical and biological
bombs was presumably eliminated," whilst advising that the
low technological requirements to produce such weapons mean "its
ability to reconstitute that inventory remains largely intact."
Neither the inevitable uncertainty over what was destroyed in
war damage and accident, nor a suspicion that Iraq has the minimal
capabilities needed to manufacture proscribed weapons, would single
it out as a unique threat to us.
4. All bulk Sarin stocks have been accounted
for, and Dr Blix's work plan notes regarding the few "unaccounted
for weaponized Sarin-type agents, it is unlikely that they would
still be viable today." (p 64) Iraq does not appear to have
the stocks of the essential Sarin precursor chemical, MLPC, and
so lacks the capacity to produce more. There does not appear to
be a threat of Sam attack from Iraq.
5. UNMOVIC has received intelligence reports
regarding Iraqi attempts to build long-range Remote Piloted Vehicles
(RPVs)/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which could deliver a chemical
or biological payload. Inspectors are aware of several permitted
RPV projects in Iraq, and believe that Iraq might have the expertise
to develop a chemical weapons delivery system, but the Draft Work
Plan refers to no evidence that supports the view that Iraq has
continued to develop RPVs or UAVs that would breach their obligations
under UN Resolutions. Inspectors recommend further inspection
as the way to resolve the question.
6. Iraq had a programme to produce the nerve
agent VX, which it did not make disclosures about following the
Gulf War. It is now admitted that 3.9 tonnes were produced; however,
the kind of VX Iraq was capable of producing is unstable, and
Iraq claims that its stocks were destroyed when they degraded.
Disposal sites have been visited, and subsequent analysis of samples
has confirmed that VX and its precursors were disposed of, but
even the most sophisticated available techniques do not allow
precise estimates of the amounts destroyed. There is nothing in
the UN Draft Work Plan that suggests Iraq still has any VX, but
concerns are raised that it still has the precursor chemicals
needed to make more. That said, it also reports that:
"Iraq has declared that significant quantities
of precursors for VX production were destroyed through aerial
bombardment during the Gulf War (thionyl chloride, phosphorus
pentasuiphide, diisopropyl amine and chioroethanol), lost due
to improper storage (phosphorus trichloride) or destroyed by Iraq
in the absence of IJNSCOM inspectors "(Iraqi choline")."
If even one of these claims is correct, then
Iraq cannot produce VX, since there is no indigenous capacity
to produce any of the precursors listed. The weapons inspectors
also note that there is no indication that there are any facilities
in Iraq capable of producing VX, which indicates that there is
no direct threat of VX attack from Iraq.
7. Iraq's main chemical weapon was mustard
gas. The weapons inspectors' reports accept that, apart from the
contested 72 tonnes in the 1,000 or so mustard gas bombs already
discussed, all stocks of mustard gas were verified as destroyed
under UNSCOM supervision (Work Plan, p 60). However, some precursor
chemicals are unaccounted for, and Iraq would be capable of manufacturing
more of these itselfif it had any facilities suitable for
doing so. UNMOVIC state that, "significant modifications
would be required to convert existing chemical production facilities
for this purpose." So, reassuringly, there is no threat of
Iraq supplying terrorists with large amounts of mustard gas.
8. The Draft Work Plan expresses concerns
that Iraq may still have in its possession up to 10,000 litres
of anthrax in liquid suspension that is though to have been deployed
during the Gulf War. Iraq contends that the anthrax in question
was destroyed at its Al Hakam facility in 1991, and has suggested
methods that could be used to verify the amounts disposed of,
but it was feared that "even if the use of advanced technology
could quantify the amount of anthrax said to be dumped at the
site, the results would still be open to interpretation."
(Dr Blix's report to UNSC, 7 March 2003) However, before rushing
to bomb Iraq, it might have been wise to establish whether there
was evidence of disposal having taken place there, and to make
an estimate of whether this was on a scale that could account
for the missing quantity.
9. Iraq has declared that it produced 19,000
litres of a highly toxic kind of botulinum toxin, and that the
unused supply of 7,565 litres was destroyed together with the
filled munitions in July 1991. The weapons inspectors have been
unable to verify either the production or destruction of botulinum
toxin by Iraq, due to the destruction of documents relating to
the project. However, they reassuringly point out that "Any
botulinum toxin that was produced and stored according to the
methods described by Iraq and in the time period declared is unlikely
to retain much, if any, of its potency. Therefore, any such stockpiles
of botulinum toxin, whether in bulk storage or in weapons that
remained in 1991, would not be active today." (Draft Work
Plan, p 73)
10. UNMOVIC has looked closely at whether
Iraq's declarations have covered all of their biological weapons
projects. UNSCOM did not find any substantial evidence that agents
other than those disclosed by Iraq had been part of the BW programme,
although there were indications that it had been interested in
how they might be produced. UNMOVIC assesses that "probably
little would have been achieved in Iraq's BW viral research programme
prior to the Gulf War." However, the Draft Work Plan requires
Iraq to provide more information about the disposal of a vial
of Brucella seed stock and an undefined quantity of the growth
medium tryptone soya broth (TSB). But there is no clear evidence
that these have been retained, or that they were ever used to
create a weapon.
So that is Saddam's arsenal of weapons of mass
destruction as identified by the weapons inspectors. To recap,
it amounts at most to around 1,000 mustard gas shells and bombs;
a suspicion surrounding some part of a stock of 10,000 litres
of anthrax; an unquantified amount of the 3.9 tonnes of VX Iraq
produced; and possibly some other materials that could be used,
or adapted for use, in a weapons programme.
Clearly, considerable progress has been made
on the verification of Iraq's claim that it destroyed its weapons
in 1991, so much so that Inspectors' reports began to speak of
"a possible `point of impasse' in the further investigation
of these issues", due to diminishing returns on inspection
activity100% verification has long been recognized as an
impossibility by all involved in the process, as is made explicit
in the Amorim report. This is quite an achievement in a country
much of whose military administrative infrastructure was comprehensively
destroyed by US/UK troops in the last Gulf War. It would be interesting
to know how effectively the UK or US could account for all chemical
and biological weapons obtained since the mid-1980s.
Iraq's capacity to produce chemical and biological
weapons: The threat from Iraq is sometimes put in terms of
the potential Iraq has to produce and proliferate dangerous weaponry.
But if there is scant evidence that Iraq still retains chemical
and biological weapons from its 1980s stockpile, there is less
to support the idea that Iraq is actively trying to produce further
stocks, despite the fact that:
"BW agents can be produced using low technology
and simple equipment, generally dual-use, (and) Iraq possesses
the capability and knowledge base through which biological warfare
agents could be produced quickly and in volume." (Amorim
report, paragraph 21)
Iraq possesses much machinery that would need
only a little adaptation for use in a biological weapons programme,
and has scientists with the necessary expertise; but surely this
potential capability in no way amounts to the clear and present
threat that might justify war. No production facilities for anthrax
or botulinum toxin of any kind have been found.
Nor is there credible evidence that Iraq has
been attempting to hide facilities from the inspectors. Dr Blix
reported that searches at for underground facilities at "several
specific locations" using "ground penetrating radar
equipment" have revealed nothing. Inspectors have also investigated
the claims that Iraq has developed mobile weapons laboratories.
"Several inspections have taken place at
declared and undeclared sites in relation to mobile production
facilities. Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops
have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing
equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been
found. Iraq is expected to. assist in the development of credible
ways to conduct random checks of ground transportation."
(Dr Blix's report to UNSC, 7 March 2003).
Dr Blix has also denied that the Iraqi regime
has tried to clean up sites in advance of inspectors' visits.
So, there is also nothing to suggest that Iraq has been trying
to hide a continuing capacity to make chemical or biological weapons.
On the basis of easily available information,
then, it seems clear that hardly any of the claims about Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction made in the Dossier stand up to scrutiny.
The people best placed to assess Iraq's compliance with the inspection
process, the UN weapons inspectors, have emphasised that the vast
majority of Iraq's 1980s arsenal of weapons has been satisfactorily
accounted for, and progress was still being made in many areas.
Dr Blix's Draft Work Plan Sets out clearly the steps that lraq
could take to bring about the completion of the inspection processprovided
the impossible aim of 100% verification based on estimates and
calculations was set aside. A cynic might suggest that it was
in order to make sure that Dr Blix's plan could never be seriously
debated that the UK and US have decided on this moment to launch
the long heralded war on Iraq, without the backing of the UN Security
I do not imagine that what was released in the
dossier represents the full scope of the intelligence information
in your possession. However, I would hope that neither you nor
President Bush is in material breach of your own obligations under
UNSCR 1441 (2002), namely to:
". . . give full support to UNMOVIC and
the IABA in the discharge of their mandates, including by providing
any information related to prohibited programmes or other aspects
of their mandates, including on Iraqi attempts since 1998 to acquire
prohibited items, and by recommending sites to be inspected, persons
to be interviewed, conditions of such interviews, and data to
be collected . . ."
Yet even with access to all the information
you are able to provide, weapons inspectors told CBS News on February
21, 2003 that:
"the US claim that Iraq is developing missiles
that could hit its neighboursor US troops in the region,
or even Israelis just one of the claims coming from Washington
that inspectors here are finding increasingly unbelievable. The
inspectors have become so frustrated trying to chase down unspecific
or ambiguous US leads that they've begun to express that anger
privately in no uncertain terms."
The inspectors described the intelligence information
as "circumstantial, outdated or just plain wrong." lf
you have better information, why was this not given to the weapons
inspectors? But if the intelligence the inspectors complain of
is that which you have used as the basis of your appraisal of
the danger posed by Iraq, the experience of the weapons inspectors
who have found it to be groundless surely must make you reduce
your trust in it: it certainly does not seem strong enough to
justify a massive attack on a shattered country.
Saddam Hussein is undoubtedly a tyrant, a bully
and a murderer; but in this he is scarcely unique amongst world
leaders. He has distinguished himself from other dictators through
the use of mustard gas and nerve agents on Iraqi Kurds at Halabja
in northern Iraq, killing up to 5,000 people according to Human
Rights Watch. But whilst his methods may have been different and
appalling, his programme of ethnic cleansing differs little in
its aims and ruthlessness from that carried out by our NATO ally
Turkey against its own Kurdish population. For example, another
Human Rights Watch estimate concerns the work of a Government
backed right-wing organization called "Hizbullah", which
alone killed more than a thousand suspected sympathizers of the
Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) in street shootings from 1992-95.
(www.hrw.org/press This record suggests that the US/UK attacks
are hardly going to improve the plight of the Iraqi Kurds if,
as seems increasingly likely, Turkey invades Northern Iraq.
Saddam is repeatedly accused of making Iraq
suffer under sanctions by diverting resources for his own use
and stockpiling food and medical supplies; perhaps the US and
UK attacks are to ensure that the population no longer has to
suffer for his greed and insatiable desire for weapons? This view
is not supported in the reports of the UN Office of the Iraq Programme
on Oil-for-Food, which have never mentioned diversion of funds
as a problem. Outgoing staff from the programme have been more
outspoken in their dismissal of the accusation.
In fact, the UN has consistently identified that there are in
fact three main reasons for poor nutrition and high infant mortality
in Iraq under Oil-for-Food:
1. The programme has a massive budget shortfall
because of lower than expected oil revenues. UN staff recognise
that the oil-for-food programme is no substitute for normal economic
activity, and could at best keep the Iraqi people from starvation.
It did not provide resources for major repairs to the electricity
and water infrastructure. Many of the excess deaths in Iraq under
sanctions have been due to the lack of clean water. The Office
of the Iraq Programme Oil-for-Food Weekly Update issued on 18
March 2003 reported that 2,642 UN-approved humanitarian supply
contracts, worth some $5.4 billion, currently lack funds.
2. Large numbers of orders have been put
on hold awaiting approval; the latest update gives the number
as "1,035 worth $3.1 billion (26.9% of value)". Items
are put on hold if they feature on the UN Goods Review List of
possible dual-use technologies, and suppliers are required to
give additional technical information to UNMOVIC and IAEA so that
they can decide whether the imports are permissible. Many of the
items on hold are required so that other items that have been
bought under the scheme can be used. The otherwise useless purchases
have to be warehoused, giving rise to rumours of stockpiling.
3. In his 19 November 2002 statement to
the Security Council, Benon V. Sevan, Executive Director of the
UN Iraq Programme, repeated another reason why Iraqis are suffering
under the oil for food programme:
"At the risk of sounding like a broken record,
I feel duty bound to reiterate yet again that it is essential
to provide commercial protection for the Iraqi buyers. . . As
detailed in the previous Note by the Office of the Iraq Programme,
dated 19 September 2002, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies
are delivered with short shelf life; high protein biscuits and
therapeutic milk that fail quality control; items with essential
components missing or defective; equipment delivered but not assembled;
vehicles, machines and spare parts delivered in a damaged condition
or with wrong technical specification; foodstuffs that, while
being safe for human consumption, are of an inferior quality to
that contracted. These are all largely due to the lack of commercial
protection . . .
I should like to reiterate the repeated calls
by the Secretary-General for allowing the inclusion of standard
commercial protection provisions in the contracts signed by the
Government of Iraq."
It appears that the Iraqi people are suffering
because they are being sold substandard goods, often without key
components, under a system that simply is not resourced to allow
them a decent standard of living. There is a much more effective
way of relieving their suffering than by dropping bombs on thema
comprehensive review of the impact of the sanctions regime, and
its phased removal as Iraq verifiably complies with the elements
of the UNMOVIC Draft Work Plan.
The US and UK say they are frustrated by the
12 years of "non-compliance". In order for the UN to
retain credibility, the issue of Iraq's weapons must be resolved.
But for Iraq it has been 12 years of isolation and sanctions,
policed by an inspection team infiltrated by foreign intelligence
agents, and with no clear indication of when or how these conditions
could be lifted. With the return of inspectors, their findings
if anything support the claims of the Iraqi regime rather than
those of US/UK, which are being used as the justifications for
unleashing our own terrible arsenal upon their country. Isn't
the authority of the UN undermined much more severely by the apparent
disregard of rich, powerful nations for the will of the Security
Council and the word of the UN Charter?
Unanimous support for UNSCR 1441 was possible
only because it did not automatically allow an attack on Iraq.
To treat Iraq's recent actions, which Dr Blix has described as
"proactive" but not "immediate" compliance
with resolution 1441, as a material breach is a dubious decision;
and to claim that this authorises the use of force by reviving
UNSCR 678, which authorised the Gulf War, seems simply mendacious.
Under the circumstances, France's determination not to allow a
Security Council resolution that authorised the immediate use
of force against Iraq, seems much more reasonable than President
Bush's opposition to any resolution that did notor the
decision to go to war on flimsy evidence and without a further
Many people fear the consequences of our espousal
of a doctrine of pre-emptive attack on potential enemies, based
on partially disclosed intelligence information, and without the
explicit support of the UN Security Council. If we are to consider
ourselves justified in this war on Iraq, how much more justified
would Pakistan and India be in "pre-empting" one another?
Indeed, would your doctrine not have justified Iraq in seeking
the means to launch attack on US and UK military assets or civilians?
Pre-emption cuts both ways, at least for those who give the same
value to lraqi lives as to all other people.
Your Government's impending action is strongly
opposed by many members of your own party, parliamentary and otherwise,
by a wide range of governments around the world, and by a broad
cross-section of the populations of this and many other countries,
including the US. So strongly is it opposed that we have seen
demonstrations of popular dissent on an unprecedented scale in
many countriesall this for a war that had not then commenced.
It is worth recalling that the US action in Vietnam, which involved
such widespread death and destruction in Vietnam, Cambodia and
Laos, and made such terrible demands of the American people, was
opposed on anything like this scale until it had been raging for
In some ways, the fact that there is such a
strong reaction against this war is a result of the rise of the
discourse of human rights and humanitarianism that was the constant
accompaniment of the military expeditions you undertook alongside
President Clinton. The emphasis you and he placed on the framework
of international law, and the protection of the basic rights of
people in other countries rang a chord with many people; but they
also came to see the importance of rich, powerful states observing
those same laws and standards of conduct in their treatment of
poorer, weaker nations, even those with valuable commodities that
we might wish to control. People have watched for months as this
"war in search of a justification" has crept closer,
and recognised that an attack on Iraq was part of the Bush administration's
plan long before terrorism struck the US. They refuse to stand
by whilst the international laws we have been encouraged to believe
in are flouted by our own governments.
Now that forces are committed and war is at
hand, debate over the war is already being replaced by politicians'
and journalists' displays of "getting behind our troops".
Many, though, remain concerned that by involving UK troops in
this criminal, reprehensible and extraordinarily dangerous war,
you leave them and yourself open to war crimes charges in the
and think that the best way to "get behind our troops"
is to make the truly tough decision and call off the attack on
In the light above, I reiterate that I should
like to know the justification for our currently military involvement
Peter R L Jones
22 March 2003
2 Michael Stone, head of inspections via the UN's
Multidisciplinary Observation Unit until 1998, wrote in the Independent
that "Ministers and senior members of the Opposition frequently
state that the Iraqi leadership have diverted supplies under this
programme. This is a serious error. Some 150 international observers,
travelling throughout Iraq, reported to the United Nations Multidisciplinary
Observer Unit, of which I was the head. At no time was any diversion
recorded. I made this clear in our reports to the UN Secretary
General, and he reported in writing to the Security Council accordingly".
Denis Halliday, who resigned as head of the United Nations humanitarian
program in 1998, went further, saying that "Oil for food"
was designed to fail", and describing the sanctions regime
as "genocidal". (www.salon.corn/people) Back
Opinion of Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers: "The
definition of war crimes is very broad and will catch indiscriminate
methods of attack or weapon systems. The UK Government must ensure
that all force used is targeted, discriminate, proportionate and
necessary, otherwise its leaders face a similar fate to that of
Milosovic." It appears that none of this violence is necessary. Back